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Myanmar should immediately repeal or amend a new law passed today which could grant former presidents blanket immunity for human rights violations and crimes under international law, said Amnesty International.  

Myanmar’s outgoing parliament today voted to pass the Former Presidents Security Law. The original draft had rung alarm bells as it granted former presidents immunity from prosecutions for undefined “actions” committed during their time in office.

However, it now appears that the proviso “in accordance with the laws” has been added to the final version passed today. While an improvement, the law could still be interpreted as granting immunity to former presidents; including for crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes under international law.

“This law has been rushed through parliament with minimal debate before the new government takes office, raising concerns that the outgoing government is determined to protect its ranks from any form of prosecution.” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International Interim Director South East Asia and Pacific Office.

“This piece of legislation is a threat to families’ rights to justice, truth and reparations and could violate Myanmar’s obligation to prosecute crimes under international law.”

“Myanmar is a country where state officials and members of the security forces can – and do – commit human rights violations without having to worry about the consequences. Instead of further cementing this impunity, the authorities should take steps to ensure that victims and family members get the truth and justice they deserve.”

The law was first tabled shortly after the opposition National League for Democracy’s (NLD) landslide victory in the November 8, 2015 general elections. The new NLD government is set to take power in early April.

In recent years, Myanmar authorities have faced accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the context of internal armed conflicts, and have continued the state-sponsored persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority.

Amnesty International has also documented a range of human rights violations, including torture and other ill-treatment, extra-judicial executions, and arbitrary detentions, several of which constitute crimes under international law.

In Myanmar, state officials, including members of the security forces, are already protected from prosecution for human rights violations committed while the country was under military rule by Article 445 of the 2008 Constitution. The exclusive powers of the military justice system over members of the military also means that military personal are rarely, if ever, held to account for crimes they have committed.

Amnesty International is calling on Myanmar to immediately revoke or amend the Former Presidents Security Law to ensure it does not provide immunity for perpetrators of crimes under international law. The organization is also urging the new government that is about to take office to take concrete steps to improve accountability for human rights violations in the country.